Saturday, May 30, 2015

Book Reviews: A Month with April-May, and 100 Days of April-May, by Edyth Bulbring

Note: A Month with April May is actually the first one...but to get the similar picture I'd have to show you the backs!
I decided to review these books together because that's how I think they're best enjoyed - and besides, they look so gorgeous side-by-side! A Month with April-May introduces April-May February and her dad Fluffy, aka July, who live together in South Africa and want to stay together. But in order to do this, April-May must keep her mother happy by doing well at the school she has just joined as a bursary student.

The spanner in the works is Mrs Ho, a fearsomely prolific teacher determined to keep an eye on April-May, who just wants to be left alone to read Twilight, wear stripy socks, and hang out with her own Edward, trouble-making Sebastian. So April-May comes up with a plan or three to get rid of Mrs Ho, but she's not easily removed, and she's also got Fluffy's finances and her mouth-breathing new friend Melly to worry about…

I generally prefer reading books aimed at older teens to those aimed at younger teens, which is why I think it took me a while to warm to A Month with April-May. Also, I think that, in comedy, the better we know the characters, the more we laugh at and with them. I liked the setup in the first book - there's a diverse and interesting range of characters introduced, but by the time I'd gotten to know all of them properly the book was over! Both books are very short for modern YA, which is one of those things that appeals to some people and not to others - I would definitely have preferred them to be longer and for the story to be more fleshed-out, but other readers will love how quick they are to read.

April-May has a strong voice as a narrator – she is opinionated, nosy, greedy, and self-assured. It's always refreshing to read about a young girl who knows that she is smarter than most of those around her. April-May February is no Frankie Landau-Banks, she is much too nice, even though she tries not to be, and her schemes don't always work out the way she hopes, but she has a similar level of confidence and respect for her own values.

April-May's family and friends are a gently quirky bunch of people who are alternately her allies and enemies, and I found that I wanted to know more about every single one.

I laughed a lot more at the second book, 100 Days of April-May, and would probably find a third even funnier. I hope there is a third, because it's really great to see more YA books from outside the UK and the US being published here and I think April-May and her friends have many more schemes to attempt!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Book Review: Being Emily, by Rachel Gold (#LGBTReadathon)

Being Emily is the story of Chris/Emily, who has never told anyone before that she identifies as a girl, At the start of the book she decides to come out for the first time, to her girlfriend Claire, and this short novel follows her progress from that point on.

It took me a while to get into Being Emily at first, because there was quite a bit of info-dumping near the start. There are a couple of scenes in which the characters research gender and transsexualism online, featuring several paragraphs that do nothing more than detail what they learned. I already knew pretty much all of the info they find, so I found them a bit dry, and I hoped that the book wasn't going to continue along the same lines.

Happily, it didn't, and once those early chapters were out of the way I found myself getting really emotionally involved with the story, which has two points of view. Chris/Emily narrates the bulk of the chapters, but there are several from Claire's point of view, in third person. I did find this a bit jarring, but I enjoyed both, and I think it was great that they were both included.

Chris/Emily's loneliness, frustration, determination, and happiness all come across really clearly in her chapters. I felt her excitement as she explored her identity with her friends and therapist and rooted for her as she dealt with her parents and the various setbacks. I was absolutely desperate for things to work out for her and for others to accept her the way she had accepted herself.

I think Claire's chapters are a realistic portrayal of someone coming to terms with such a big revelation from someone close to them, but what was really interesting about Claire is that she is religious. Rachel Gold, the author, has a degree in English and Religious Studies, and Being Emily does not shy away from the subject of gender and Christianity at all, which was fascinating. Most of the characters that bring up Christianity in reference to gender believe that God condemns trans people, but Claire, who has a strong interest in early Christianity, finds that Bible studies and her personal relationship with God help her understand, come to terms with, and even defend Chris/Emily's identity. There were some quotes from the Bible in Claire's sections and some interpretations she provides that I had never heard before.

Online communities and gaming also play an important role in Chris/Emily and Claire's lives, and that's always great to see to in books.

I know that a lot of readers are a bit bored with coming-out stories, but Being Emily has some unique aspects that I think will make it a worthwhile read, especially for readers that don't know very much about trans issues.

My main caveat is that Being Emily has not been published in the UK, so it's a bit on the expensive side - over £10 for the paperback edition, though the ebook is cheaper and I was lucky enough to find it in my library's ebook catalogue.

Some other reviews of Being Emily that I found interesting:
My Life in Neon
erica, ascendant
Lambda Literary
The Lesbrary
Gay YA

I read Being Emily as part of the #LGBTReadathon, organised by the fabulous Faye at A Daydreamer's Thoughts. Next up: I'll Give You The Sun, by Jandy Nelson.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Book Review: Wintersmith, by Terry Prachett (Farewell Terry Prachett Blog Tour)

Tiffany Aching's witch training is going pretty well until she is taken to watch the Dark Morris, the opposite of the better-known spring time morris dance, performed to bring the winter to the land. Bored and distracted, she finds herself giving into temptation and joining the dance, where she comes to the attention of the Wintersmith, an elemental, and he falls in love with her, threatening to plunge the world into eternal winter if she cannot work out how to stop him.

But this isn't all Tiffany has to worry about - her current mentor, Miss Treason, is a witch feared by many, a woman shrouded by legend - skulls and spiderwebs decorate her house, there's allegedly a demon in her basement, and she has a clock instead of a heart. And of course the Nac Mac Feegles are still protecting her, stealing food, and reading her diary...

It has been a few years since I read the previous Tiffany Aching book - A Hat Full of Sky - and I found that I remembered characters better than plot details, so I did have to read the Wikipedia summaries of the previous two books. However, I wouldn't worry about having to do this as there aren't that many references to the previous two books - the most important thing you need to do to enjoy Wintersmith is to remember who everyone is!

With characters this memorable, it's not a struggle at all, and for me Wintersmith was all about the characters. If I remember the other books correctly, I preferred the plots of the last two, but Wintersmith would be well worth reading just to learn more about the witches and see more of the Feegles! I loved all the little details that are thrown in because they're funny, even if they have nothing to do with the plot - like Horace the living cheese.

I hope you enjoyed this review - do check out the other #terryprachettblogtour posts. Now, I really must read I Shall Wear Midnight soon...


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